A very magical couple and dear friends (who I’ll call Thicket and Huntress) picked me up on Thursday and off we went to Granville Island to visit the market and the artisans. We saw dozens upon dozens of handwoven brooms with handles from every tree imaginable (can’t you just picture one in Baba Yaga’s hut deep in the forest?). They were so witchily tempting, but each of us already had their like at home and which we really do use to sweep our houses with. We played handmade drums and rattles in the music shop, made fun of the incense prices in the magic shop, and went to see the silk weavers’ cottage where I bought plied red silk for weaving rowan cross charms. Then we had dinner in the market and, all of us being dirty-minded, just had to pick the European sausage stall. There was bratwurst and sauerkraut and friend onions and at least half a dozen mustards to choose from.
Then it was off and away to Kits to visit Banyen Books & Sound (I’ve gone on about them before). Thicket went to look at books while Huntress and I went right to the drums and to fondle the tarot decks. It’s always so hard to leave there without a stack of books. I managed to get away with only one book, but Huntress (a herbalist) left with a good stack of books on mushrooms and Grieve’s herbal. After pawing over them, we now highly recommend The Fungal Pharmacy, Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America (a really good identification guide), and both want (but didn’t buy) Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares. I, of course, couldn’t leave without a book on sacred brewing that talked of a whole hive mead, the magical properties of bee propolis and combines my two loves of mead and beer; Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers by the poetic Stephen Buhner. It is full of recipes for meads and beers: herbal, medicinal, psychoactive, and delicious brews. There are henbane recipes in it – I may have swooned.
Then we picked up their two wee ones and made the few hour drive to their place in an old gold rush town nestled deep in the mountains. The view late that night was black shadows of mountain peaks and every star imaginable shining down when far away from the light pollution of the city. I fell asleep next to a fire under a ceiling of stars. The next day Huntress and I drove through the gorgeous 360° views of impossibly tall mountains, wild forests, and a large snaking river. When we returned we read aloud to each other favourite passages from Datura and Christian Rätsch’s Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants while Thicket listened in amusement. We planned visionary plant journeys deep in the mountains’ wild forests for the spring where we will build a temporary structure of greenwood and a good fire, watch for wolves, and play our drums far away from the things of men.
What better way to finish such a lovely simple day than to drink her hubby’s 4-year old cinnamon-clove mead warmed over the stove by a roaring fire? We talked late into the dark of spirits, magic, herbs, poisons, entheogens, wildcrafting, and doing plant journeys in the forest. “My arm hurts. There’s going to be a blizzard,” says Huntress, and it snows all night long and then the next day and the next. Old Woman had arrived at last. The once-green mountains turned white, a blinding mist rolled through the forest, and everything was covered in a deep, heavy blanket of snow.
We all hid inside from the snow, watching Grimm and 13th Warrior. What do foody herbalists do when trapped by snow? We made all kinds of herbal teas – fresh lemon, fresh galangal root, and fresh kaffir lime leaves is amazing. Huntress made us delicious lunches and snacks. Together her and I cooked a feast of roast goose with homemade cranberry jelly, bacon-mushroom stuffing, new potatoes, and sautéed mushrooms and asparagus (with more mead of course). There was so much rich goose fat you could feel your arteries harden, but it’s liquid gold and it was worth it.
1/2 loaf of sourdough bread, cut into cubes
6 slices of bacon, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 big handfuls of button mushrooms, quartered
pinches, to taste, of rosemary and thyme
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Sautée the bacon with the mushrooms, onion, and garlic until the bacon is crisp. Take the pan off the heat and add the bread, s&p, and herbs and mix. Beat the eggs and pour them over the bread, stirring quickly before the egg has a chance to cook – get it to soak into the sourdough. Push down the stuffing mixture into a loaf pan and baste well with roasted goose, duck, or chicken fat. Bake for 30 min. Leave it uncovered if you like the outside crispy or cover with tinfoil if you like your stuffing soft and moist.
More nights staying up late drinking perfect mead in candle and firelight talking of homesteading, gardening, foraging, brewing, beekeeping, and a thousand other magical and wonderous topics we all share a love of. But then, alas, it came time to say goodbye and make the treacherous drive in the snow back down to the city from the mountains and the forest. We passed semis and suv’s on their sides in the snow and saw many a car fish-tail and almost lose control. But we didn’t – sometimes it’s good to have two magicians in a car. It snowed and snowed until we reached the city and found clear roads and blue sky among the clouds. Old Woman’s hold is less away from the mountains and the wild. I already miss my friends, the fire, and the nights of mead and conversation, but I have a hot cup of tea inside from the snow, there is a candle spell burning on the kitchen table, and I have my fat black cat who missed my warm lap. Life is lovely.